Each week, as regular readers know, we pose a series of questions to a winemaker. This week, we’re featuring Giampaolo Venica from Venica & Venica in Fruili, Italy.
Venica & Vencia traces its roots to 1930 when Giampaolo’s great grandfather, Daniele, purchased a small house and plot of land in Dolegna del Collio.
After World War II, Daniele started farming on the property — and because he was growing grapes, he also began producing wine. As he began selling his excess wine and fruit to area restaurants, Daniele and his son Adelchi began purchasing abandoned vineyards and expanding their wine production.
A family winery, Daniele passed the winery to his son Adelchi, who passed it along to his two sons, Gianni and Giorgio.
Giampaolo, Gianni’s son, studied both viticulture and enology in school and then headed to California, South Africa, and Bordeaux to hone his craft. Upon his return, he began managing exports for the family winery. Just recently, Giampaolo took over the winery with his sister and cousins. So the family’s winemaking tradition remains quite strong.
Check out our interview with Giampaolo below the fold!
What is your general winemaking philosophy?
My goal is to produce the best quality. In my mind, I have succeed when the finished product represents the identity of the vineyard and the grape variety.
What’s open in your kitchen right now?
I have two. A 2009 Domaine Dujac Clos de la Roche Grand Cru and a 2009 San Paolo Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Riserva.
Who are your favorite winemakers in history, through personal account, or their wines?
I tend to judge the wines more than people, so it’s hard to say — especially considering I like so many different wines!
What new winemakers are you most excited about, and why?
For a profession and passion that has been around for so many years, it is tough to pinpoint any one great figure to follow. But I think I am most impressed with the new generations of winemakers that strive to preserve family traditions in winemaking.
How do you spend your days off?
I usually spend my days off running, swimming, and hiking – always with a great meal waiting at the end. My wife and I will often spend half of the day preparing that meal and enjoying some wine. She loves Pinot Noir and Nebbiolo.
What’s the best wine you’ve ever tasted? The most interesting?
It is definitely La Tâche. I have not had many vintages, but every time I’ve had a glass — as we say in Italy — “I have heard angels singing.”
What’s the oldest bottle in your cellar? The most expensive?
The oldest bottle is a 1932 Marsala made with Frappato, Calabrese, Grossonero. The most expensive is La Tâche!
If you had to pick one red and one white to drink for the next month with every dinner, what would you choose?
This would be impossible for me; I need to change what I am drinking at least every 3 days. Every glass I have brings me to a different place and I don’t want to be stuck in just one. If I really had to choose, it would probably be Malvasia Istriana.
What’s your biggest challenge as a winemaker?
It would have to be my red grapes. Our climate — especially on our property — is very cool, which is great for aromatic whites like Sauvignon Blanc. But when it comes to reds, you really need to wait till the last minute to harvest them but you risk rains in October or elevating their sugar levels if the vintage is too warm.
What’s your favorite wine region in the world — other than your own?
It’s difficult to say, but if I could find a few weeks to travel it would be to the Rhone Valley. I have a few friends that have showed me some great wines and I’d love the opportunity to learn more.
Is beer ever better than wine?
A glass of beer in the middle of a tasting is one of the best things to cleanse both the palate and the spirit.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
I am starting to have problems eating pork — if my grandfather were alive, he’d yell at me! You know the best Friulian thing to have is a 24-months aged prosciutto crudo and an old bottle of Friulano.
If you weren’t making wine for a living, what would you be doing?
I would take a chance and probably become a chef. I probably wouldn’t be the best, but cooking is something that relaxes me.
How do you define success?
There is not really much at the end of the journey, so I find success more in being happy everyday. Sitting at dinner with a glass of wine and seeing my wife smiling at me is the epitome of success.